In the protective apparel industry there is a growing trend toward very lightweight and durable protective nonwovens that are strong and comfortable to wear at the same time. “Today, users of personal protective equipment, or PPE, want to be protected at the best level possible without sacrificing any comfort,” says Norafin’s business development manager, Jennifer Burst.
Norafin has recently developed Norafin Komanda—a functional nonwoven for heat, flame and arc flash protection. In terms of arc flash performance, the arc thermal performance values (ATPV) for the Norafin Komanda materials offer a significant improvement compared to leading competitive materials, according to Burst.
“There is an equivalent or even improved performance at approximately 45% lower basis weights, which makes Norafin Komanda an extremely lightweight, single-layer nonwoven tested according to NFPA 70E Hazard Rating Categories 2 and 3, which is a standard for electrical safety in the workplace,” she says. “The category level is determined by the minimum amount of calories per square centimeter (ATPV or Cal/cm2) a garment must pass. Category level 1 can be seen as low risk and category 4 is the most dangerous one.”
In addition, the material offers excellent durability, abrasion resistance, launderability and breathability while being soft and drapeable. Norafin Komanda creates an entirely new class of fabric as a durable nonwoven for protective apparel.
Also, Norafin's unique production process creates a 3-dimensional web as opposed to a 2-dimensional web via traditional cross lapping. This leads to products with excellent uniformity, loft and strength. Norafin offers a full range of FR spunlace products created in this manner of various fiber types and structures, which are used in protective apparel today.
“The marketplace needs to be convinced that nonwovens are a valid alternative to traditional woven materials, which have mainly been used up to now,” says Burst.
The protective apparel market depends on high performance synthetic fibers to deliver the necessary protection. “We have received some requests for products meeting the OkeTex standard, but sustainability does not seem to be a driver in this market yet,” says Burst. “We do see a growing interest in our flax-based products in other markets.”
Moving forward Burst sees the PPE market as being a growth market. “In general as developing economies grow their interest and ability to protect workers grows as well,” she says. “These nations will look to the products and standards set in North America and Europe. Nonwovens are positioned well to fulfill the growing need.”